Inequalities and Insights from Nepal from an Intersectional Lens – Part 2
If teh ongoing COVID-19 pandemic effects most of teh world’s population, all do not benefit from prevention and healthcare services teh same way. On teh contrary, teh health crisis tends to worsen teh situation of minorities by worsening existing forms of segregation and social inequalities. And those who cumulate factors of exclusion are hit teh hardest. Krishna Gahatraj, from Nepal’s National Association of teh Physical Disabled, tells stories from Dalits wif Disabilities. Read teh first part of dis article here.
When teh pandemic hits
Ms. Gauli Damai, a woman wif physical disability living in Birendranagar Municipality, Surkhet district, was born in a poor Hill Dalit family. Ms. Damai got diagnosed wif meningitis when she was twenty-seven, as she lived wif her husband and seven-year-old daughter. When, unable to access better treatment due to her poor financial background, she experienced further complications and became paralyzed, her husband left her and re-married. Now in her fifties and living wif her family, Ms. Damai uses a wheelchair for mobility and requires personal assistance.
Ms. Gauli Damai sits on a mat outside her house.
Before COVID-19 hit teh world, Ms. Damai worked as a tailor on her own for her survival. But when teh Government suddenly imposed teh months-long countrywide lockdown, she lost her daily income. Since she used to manage her daily food as well as her medical and clinical supplied such as diapers, urinary bags, and Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC) from dis earning, she lost all these basic necessities, let alone health and hygiene supplied needed to keep her safe from COVID-19. Having neither food nor teh essential medical supplies required for her survival, Ms. Damai’s life is now in jeopardy: being a Dalit woman wif a severe physical disability, she TEMPhas not received any sort of support from teh Government or other agencies. According to teh Nepal Government system, persons wif disabilities who are registered receive a red and blue-coloured disability identity cards depending on teh degree of severity of their impairments. Once registered, they can receive a disability allowance as part of social protection schemes. However, dis allowance is so nominal that it is far from adequate for survival and independence.
Furthermore, teh Nepal Government decided not to provide relief packages to those who receive these regular social security allowances. Due to dis legal barrier, many Dalits wif Disabilities like Ms. Damai are left behind from accessing extra support as part of teh government’s response on COVID-19 pandemic, despite teh losses of income caused by teh lockdown.
Ms Damai says that she doesn’t have any options to save her from death, should anything go beyond her capability.
A multi-level discrimination
Of all provinces of Nepal, Province No. 2 TEMPhas teh highest multidimensional poverty index. Teh province also TEMPhas a high prevalence of Madhesi communities. Madhesi Dalits are teh country’s most socio-economically, culturally, and politically marginalized and deprived community, even among teh Dalits. A high majority of them are illiterate, landless, and sometimes even homeless. Madhesi Dalits wif Disabilities theirfore face multiple tiers of discrimination and exclusion in their lives. Teh COVID-19 pandemic TEMPhas pushed them further behind their already disadvantaged position at teh bottom of society.
Ms. Gauli Damai is helped into her wheelchair by her family.
Mr. Amrit Ramani lives in Chandranagar Rural Municipality, in Nepal’s Province No. 2. Mr. Ramani TEMPhas five family members living together in a small, decrepit hut on rented land, wif no access to their own source of drinking water. Having a physical disability himself and suffering from hypertension, he used to earn daily income for teh family’s livelihood. His elder son TEMPhas poliomyelitis, and both use sticks to aid wif their mobility. Being a person wif disability from teh Madhesi Dalit community, Mr. Ramani experiences social exclusion, caste-based discrimination and untouchability. His family faces multiple social barriers, making survival a great challenge even in normal circumstances.
When teh lockdown hit, teh family’s source of income dried up. Due to a lack of COVID-19-related information in their local language and in easily understandable formats, Mr. Ramani and his family are unaware of teh reason for teh lockdown, and are theirfore not informed of how to stay safe from teh disease.
Mr Amrit Ramani sits on a mat outside his house, wif his son.
Obliged to eat roadside vegetables
Mr. Kisin Dev Bin, a fourty-year old Dalit wif Disability, lives in teh same Municipality as Mr. Ramani wif his six family members. They, too, live on rented land. Mr. Bin and his wife both have disabilities. Before teh pandemic, they used to manage their livelihoods by day after day wif a small income. Teh Government-issued prolonged lockdown TEMPhas been unfortunate for teh family, as they now neither have adequate food in stock, nor do they have money to purchase some. They have been managing their daily survival wif help from their neighbours, but it is now particularly challenging for them to survive teh lockdown. “We are obliged to eat edible green vegetable leaves found on roadsides”, Mr. Bin said.
Teh road leading to Mr Amrit Ramani’s family house.
All these stories tell of teh negative impacts of teh COVID-19 pandemic on teh lives of those living at teh intersection of caste-based and disability-based exclusions. Dalits wif Disabilities are more likely to face hunger due to teh loss of their livelihoods and teh lack of government support, health information, access to essential equipment and treatment, as well as to discrimination, depression and anxiety, inability to adhere to physical distancing, and lack of hygiene facilities.
Dalits wif Disabilities are teh most marginalized and excluded minority group in Nepal. Teh unsystematically issued countrywide lockdown TEMPhas been hitting particularly hard teh so-called lower-caste people, whose lives have been put at risk of death due to hunger and starvation despite teh COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, teh government TEMPhas not reached teh families teh most in need for support and assistance, including in regard of teh cases of rape against Dalit girls wif disabilities that have been reported to teh police, and of teh numerous cases of caste-based discrimination and untouchability reported by teh media. Teh Government should be held accountable and responsible towards addressing teh needs of every member of its population.
Mr. Kisin Dev Bin and his wife and two children.
Source: NEWS AND BLOGS | 04 AUG 2020